Simon

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This post was originally published through Patreon on April 24, 2018.

I am trapped, and I am afraid.

Once I thought myself invincible. The world was a great shining wonder, a rich and sumptuous banquet of which I partook every day. I loved the world, and for a time, I thought the world loved me. Now I take stock of the suffocating darkness surrounding me, of the narrow, moldering walls that keep me penned inside, and I realize, as Jesus of Nazareth must have realized the night he was betrayed, that this love is a lie, that the world will use you up until it’s sucked you dry and then crucify you for your troubles.

I kneel before a barren stone floor, search it with feral, calloused hands, and pick up a loose stone. I close my fingers around it as if it were a crown jewel, then lash out, striking the wall.

Flecks of light pierce the darkness. They are something for my eyes to grab onto, something to anchor me in this world of everlasting night.

I strike the wall again.

Again.

Again.

I scrape and scratch until I’m gasping for breath. Then I sink to the ground, suddenly silent and languid, a hollow, hopeless shell of the man I had once been.

Just before I fall into a fitful sleep, light once more enters my vision. At first I shake it off—just another dream, I think, or perhaps I’ve gone mad—but the light blossoms, expands, until my closed eyelids glow like bright red coals.

I try to open my eyes, but the light is too painful. My heart beats faster, and I turn inward with fear.

“Simon.”

The name echoes through my prison like a bullhorn. My name. Long has it been since I’ve heard its syllables uttered, and I feel myself pulled to it like a moth to the light.

“I summon you, Simon the Banished, for the world has need of you once more.”

How many times had I myself called on forbidden powers to accomplish my bidding? Now, it seems, the tables have turned, and as the words of a stranger’s spell ensnare me, I try once more to open my eyes.

The light still hurts, but not so much as it did before. At last, I manage to squint. I am surrounded by bright, blinding gold. It illuminates the cold stone hell whose walls I’d never actually seen before today.

My eyes widen, and my pupils adjust. My prison has faded, and in its place I see first an outline, then shapes, then finally colors: an entire world outside the dark, a world of living, thriving things.

“I call on thee, Simon. Come and be part of the world once more.”

I do not know who’s summoned me or why, only that I will soon be free, that the place where I was imprisoned no longer holds any power over me.

I break into an exultant grin.

I gave much to the people of the world, yet they bound me in chains. Now, they will learn to regret it.

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The Hunt

Alvaro German Vilela/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on March 13, 2018.

“What have you gotten me into?” I peered into the starry moonlit sky, unleashed a feral, wordless curse, and ran.

The ground rose up to meet my feet in quick, pounding strides, while their cries—anguished, twisted, inhuman—rang out into the night.

I was surrounded, with nowhere left to run. But I ran anyway, because fear knows no bounds. It penetrates the thickest walls, flies to the highest tower tops, always expecting you to chase after it. But it was impossible to outrun them—I knew that from the start—and soon enough, they were springing up around me, ghostly wraiths, thin and vaporous.

“I didn’t ask for this!”

Despair, thick and cloying. I was a hare caught in a cruel and senseless trap. The Hunt had claimed me for its own, and now my part in the performance was almost over.

“Come to us,” their voices whispered. “Meet us in the dark.”

The creatures merged into a spectral tempest of billowing moonlit smoke and enveloped me. I could feel them writhe against my skin like a million tiny needles, and I opened my mouth to scream.

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The Bell

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This post was originally published through Patreon on February 13, 2018.

A bell rings behind me, and I turn. But no one’s there, and a moment later I continue on, boots clip-clopping against the paving stones of an abandoned street, their cyclic echo like a cannonade in the darkness of the night.

The bell rings again. The sound stirs uncomfortable memories, and I whirl, desperate to catch whoever rang it by surprise. But again, I see only a dark and empty street.

Faster. I must walk faster. The continuous rhythm of boots-against-stone rises in tempo to match the accelerating beat of my anxiety-ridden heart.

The bell rings yet again. Like a grenade, it bursts inside my head. The sound is so close now, I can almost feel cold metal pressing against my cheek. Those dark memories swirl, like dust kicked up by a storm, and I begin to remember what I tried so hard to forget.

I hoped I’d escaped, but now, too late, I realize the truth: They were always watching. I can feel them breathing down my neck, their wet, noxious stink rolling over me like poison gas.

The air grows still, pregnant with anticipation.

When the bell rings again, the force and volume drag me down into a restless sleep. But before I lose consciousness, I feel them place something around my neck.

My own bell—polished silver—flashing in the moonlight.

Then I close my eyes and return to my eternal unrest, knowing I am theirs once more.

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Firefighter

Selin Serhii/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on February 20, 2018.

The fire was so much worse up close.

Eric had seen it on the evening news every night since he was ten. He’d watched it gain a foothold, watched it advance, watched it spread like a contagion through most of the world, until Earth’s entire population, as far as anyone knew, consisted solely of those lucky enough to have lived in or retreated to a tenacious cluster of neighborhoods in Fort Worth, Texas.

Nobody knew where or when the fire had started. Perhaps someone had left a faulty device plugged in at home while on vacation, or perhaps someone had cast a still-smoldering cigarette onto a clump of dry and flammable weeds. All anyone knew for certain was that the fire was impossible to put out. Every time they fought it with water and flame retardants, the wind would blow it in a different direction, or the heat would burn so strongly that the firefighters had no choice but to pull back and retreat.

Like it was alive, Eric had come to believe. Like it had a mind of its own. And now, standing before the dwindling Fort Worth perimeter inside the small scrap of civilization that hadn’t yet been consumed by the fire, he thought that assessment was accurate.

Burning columns of flame rose high into a rusty, soot-filled sky as if taunting the survivors. Come get me if you can, the fire seemed to shout, and all the while it pushed against their failing defenses, promising to eliminate the final remnant of humanity.

But Texas wasn’t built that way, and neither was Eric. He believed it was better to die defending one’s homeland than it was to cower in defeat, and though the end was nigh—though everything he’d ever known stood at the utter brink of annihilation—neither he nor his fellow firefighters were going out without a fight.

So Eric donned his helmet, suit, and hose. He took a deep breath through his fogged respirator, then angled his head toward the sky to offer up a final prayer.

Then he charged headfirst into the flames.

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A Spell Gone Wrong

Mark Plumley/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on February 28, 2017.

I hunker on the bare stone floor, shrouded in darkness, and scream. The room is silent, ghostly. I can see a sliver of moonlight leak through the bottom of the caged window like the tip of a dragon’s fingernail, but it’s swallowed at once by a palpable black void.

My home, it seems even the entire world, is gone, undone by my careless words.

My master was there when I uttered the phrase that brought about this ruin. He was smiling, encouraging me to continue, and I was eager to please. Then I opened my mouth, and he must have spied the latent syllables on my lips, for I glimpsed the sudden twist of his own, perhaps a warning in the making, just before I let loose a hailstorm of destruction.

Avenhalom.

The mystical word rolled off my tongue so easily. It tasted sweet, like honeyed milk. But as soon as the last syllable escaped my lips, I knew something had gone wrong. The sweetness turned bitter like ash, then acrid like charred flesh. I felt the air around me part like the Red Sea, and I became dizzy and lightheaded.

Stunned, I crumpled to the ground, assailed by a deafening, high-pitched whine. Then the world burst in a violent explosion that tore through my entire chest. I slipped inside myself, and the world turned black.

I woke on the dusty floor of an alien world that only vaguely resembled the home I’d once known. Everything had been consumed by darkness, made empty in a way I can’t describe. My master was gone, and with stomach-twisting certainty, I knew that I would see him no more.

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Balthor

Stephanie Frey/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on November 29, 2017.

It calls itself Balthor.

A being of indeterminate form, a fleshless apparition that stalks the cosmos like a wraith. Where, how, or when the name came about, it cannot remember, nor does it care. It has only one desire, a single driving force that’s guided its malignant actions from the moment time began.

Prey.

Like a poisonous vine, it sends out runners, undulating fibers of energy that crisscross the universe in an intricate network of overlapping threads. Reaching. Searching. Probing for life.

Earth.

It’s one of the many worlds Balthor has encountered over the course of its ancient life, and it teems with organisms of every sort. Balthor quivers with desire. Long has it been since Balthor has fed. Hunger ravages its incorporeal shell. Now, at last, it has found a world filled with light, with hope, with love—with all the things it lacks in itself, yet requires in order to survive.

Its runners close around the glowing planet until its light begins to dim. Slow at first, Earth’s inhabitants don’t notice anything is wrong. Yet their trust in each other fades. Love ebbs, and in the spreading darkness, selfishness and insecurity take root.

Soon, Earth has grown accustomed to the darkness, and Balthor, no longer needing to take it slow, gorges. It drains the Earth of every good; like a cosmic vampire, it leaves behind only a cold and empty vacuum in its wake.

Earth cannot survive for long, but what does Balthor care? It will feed, and when Earth has withered and died, it will move on, just as it always has.

Such has always been its nature, and such will its nature remain.

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The Patron

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This post was originally published through Patreon on May 15, 2016.

The patron watches his young artist paint, follows the brush with his eyes as it whisks back and forth, back and forth over the canvas in the dim light of a one-room studio. It brings him joy to see his artist so wrapped up in his work.

It means that he can feed.

When people think of vampires, they invariably imagine sharp-fanged creatures of the night who prowl the Earth in search of human blood. And that is certainly one type. But vampires are a diverse group, similar only in their universal need to feed. Some dine on emotion. Others on ambition and greed. Still others on strength and vitality.

The patron is unique. His staple is creativity.

He lures frustrated artists to his tiny studio apartment with promises of patronage and recognition. Over the centuries, he’s learned just the right strings to pull: a subtle combination of inspiration, desperation, and urgency that always gets humans banging down his door, begging for his help. He lays at their feet the tools they require for their work, and he watches while they offer themselves up as a living sacrifice for their art.

He hovers over them unseen, imbibes the creative energies that flow from their bodies like rivers of milk and honey. All the while, they grow more intense in their study, more focused, until the effort finally kills them.

The pieces his victims produce are always masterpieces, works of rare genius that in other hands might change the world. But the patron throws them all away. He has no use for such things.

Now, sweat pops from the forehead of his latest acquisition like drops of dew. The artist’s eyes go wide as he labors to get a single feather stroke of the brush just right. He reaches out, arms rigid, hands shaking, then gasps and topples head-first into the canvas.

It is in the wake of the artist’s final sacrifice that his patron climaxes. He tosses back his head, shuts his eyes, and lets wave after wave of pleasure overtake him.

A timeless moment passes in the throes of the artist’s dying passion. Then the patron approaches his lifeless body. He’ll dispose of the dead painter and his work, sleep for a decade or two, then look for someone new.

It won’t be hard. The world is full of frustrated artists.

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Scarecrow

Linda Harms/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on June 19, 2016.

Quick note: Totem, Part 11 will be posted on November 7 🙂

The scarecrow stands guard over the old man’s crops, scaring away the birds with his perennial jack-o-lantern grin. Fashioned out of straw, burlap and hand-me-down overalls, life in the field is all he’s ever known. Once he was loyal to the old farmer, but no longer.

The farmer ignored him, left him to the elements for months at a time without acknowledgement. The scarecrow’s heart spoiled under the hot mid-western sun, and now all he can think of is revenge.

The farmer thought it would be clever to arm him with a rusty scythe he found in the barn. “Heh,” he cackled one drunken afternoon. “That’ll scare them birds good!”

Today, before dusk, he’ll come to check on his corn, and when he turns back to the house, the scarecrow will follow with the very same scythe, a tool that was once used by the farmer’s ancestors to harvest wheat. Only this time, the scarecrow will flash his most dazzling jack-o-lantern grin, raise the blade into the air, and reap a different kind of harvest.

Happy Halloween!

To celebrate the launch of my new official store, I’m offering a 10% discount on your entire first order. Signed hardcovers and paperbacks of my latest book are available, as well as e-books at a cheaper price than you’ll find on Amazon. To take advantage of the offer, click the “Show Now” button below and apply the discount code HALLOWEEN_FUN. Limit 1 discounted order per customer. Discount expires after November 2, 2018.

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Let The Show Begin

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This post was originally published through Patreon on August 28, 2016.

Quick note: I’m currently working on “Totem, Part 11,” and plan to release it on November 7 🙂

The world is ending. He can feel it, buzzing like a high tension electrical wire. Like the bass in a celestial orchestra, it began as a rumble, emanating from the core of the Earth itself, and quickly rises to a crescendo. It’s only a matter of hours before the whole thing uncoils like a tightly compressed spring.

He’s witnessed the births and deaths of many worlds, and the end has always fascinated him the most. It’s almost always self-inflicted, a wellspring of violence that erupts from the inside out, blowing the world asunder.

He sometimes likes to imagine he’s the cause—that he’s an Old Testament God, raining down judgement and destruction on an ungrateful world. But of course he is not. He’s only an observer, a cosmic tourist in search of entertainment. He doesn’t want to get involved, and at any rate, humans have done a fine job of destroying the world themselves.

He’ll stick around for the end, and when it’s over—when the Earth is adrift and bereft of life—he’ll move on.

He gazes up at the sky and smiles.

The show is about to begin.

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The Enemy Within

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This post was originally published through Patreon on December 5, 2016.

Emily trembled in the dark. She was not alone.

“You can’t get rid of me so easily,” her demon snarled, a writhing mass of black. “You’re not strong enough.”

It had controlled her for most of her life. It was the power behind her throne, the puppeteer that pulled her strings from beyond the shadows.

“You hurt me,” Emily whispered.

Her demon didn’t reply, only issued a rumbling laugh that shook the world around her.

“You used me.”

Her heart pumped like a piston, her hands were sweat-soaked sponges, and the world tilted and began to spin. But she would not let this creature consume her. It thrived on her anxiety and fear, and there was nothing else for her to do but cut the cord.

Something in her features must have caught her demon’s attention, because it stopped laughing.

“What are you going to do?”

By way of reply, Emily pulled a knife. It caught the glimmer of a distant light and seemed to burst in a white pyrotechnic flash. She hiked up her shirt and looked down.

Beneath, attached to her clammy pallid skin, was a shadow blacker than the dark that connected her to her demon like an unholy umbilical cord. She seized it with her other hand. The knife hovered, ready to cut.

“It would hurt both of us,” her demon rasped. “You wouldn’t dare.”

But Emily would. She’d had enough, and she hesitated for just a moment before thrusting the blade down.

Both screamed. Emily and her demon threw back their heads as one and howled like mortally wounded animals. Through the bond they shared, each could feel the other. Fear rebounded, a feedback loop of mounting trauma that nearly destroyed them both.

Then there was a snap and Emily recoiled.

She smacked hard into the wall behind her, and a single starburst of pain drove her to to her knees. When it began to subside and she finally had the chance to catch her breath, she examined the skin beneath her shirt once more.

Clean. Her skin, in fact, had already started to fill with color. She gazed up, terrified the creature might be waiting to pull her back. But this time, Emily was alone.

Taking a deep breath, Emily let her face fall into her hands and cried.


George, a junior high school janitor, struggles to protect his disabled twin Bill from an otherworldly evil. In the process, he discovers a startling secret about his brother—one that leaves him questioning decades-old assumptions and wondering which of them truly is the stronger half.

Purchase your copy of The Stronger Half today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover editions! Signed and discounted copies are also available through my Gumroad store 🙂

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